When did leadership become a dirty word?


When I was in graduate school I took a class that examined the qualities of leadership. I have to make a confession … the only reason I took it was because I thought it was going to be an easy blow-off class!

I was completely wrong. This turned out to be one of the most interesting and inspiring classes of my career and it ignited a lifetime of study on the subject. It turned me into a leadership junky.

My fascination with this subject was one of the reasons that drove me to write Return On Influence. I became obsessed with this idea — how do you become a leader on the Internet — a place that HATES leaders! Trying to understand those changes was a lot of fun and believe me, leadership DOES exist on the Internet, whether people want it or not.

To a large extent, I think the “You’re not my boss” attitude of social media has made the idea of leadership an unpopular concept. I see this anti-leadership mentality dripping from online posts and comments.

And, to some extent, the attitude may have been codified when Zappos recently announced that it was eliminating titles and organizational charts. This was too good of a topic to pass up for me and I think you’ll enjoy the discussion Tom Webster and I have on this topic on the newest edition of our Marketing Companion podcast.

But that’s just the beginning.

Tom and I cover a lot of ground in this edition. As you may know, a recent post I wrote called Content Shock went crazy. Suddenly, I felt like I had become the center of attention for a large portion of the marketing dialogue. When we recorded this episode of the podcast, the personal implications of all this attention and the clubbiness of the social web were weighing on my mind.

This led into a discussion of “content curation” versus “content assembly.” Is curation a legitimate way to stand out today? Isn’t every move Google makes HURTING the idea of curating content as a strategy? Tom does a great job in this podcast providing some tips for skillful content curation.

Are you ready for some podcasting fun? Well, wait no longer. You’re just a click away from hearing our latest episode …

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  • Gordon Diver

    Great discussion Mark and Tom. I have used Flipboard, Newsmix and Paper.li in the past and initially thought I was being helpful by connecting my social channels to them. My purpose for their use, was to ensure I had the opportunity to capture a story that I might have missed otherwise in my feeds. Initially it was a good way to learn about others posts – now, I’ve got a large stable of quality sources to use and I’ve been writing my own weekly summary of the top three stories that resonate for me and ideally my readers. As for the business advantages from the aggregate sites, none.

  • I like the fact that you are adding value to your curation Gordon through your own posts and writing.

  • Not only is the content of your podcast(s) A-1, you have great voices: so easy and pleasant to listen to. I do believe I shall have to make you a radio out of coconuts to reward your contributions:)

    And I agree: It IS the challenge. It IS getting harder. There ARE more companies than Zappos in this universe.

    Thanks again for always bringing perspective, sanity, common sense and a great sense of relief to my days. Cheers! Kaarina

  • Means a lot coming from you. Thanks!

  • That makes my day 🙂

  • Great podcast Mark. You guys touched up two very interesting issues. I hope I can address both without getting too long-winded :-).

    When it comes to content curation, I think that the various applications of it are way too broad to give a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ to the entire practice. I admit that I’ve tried several content curation tools a year ago or so (such as Scoop.it and Paper.li) and the point was completely lost on me. But about 6 months ago I started using RebelMouse…which was really a godsend. You see, I had the idea to create two niche websites. I actually did create the sites, but then took them down because I struggled with finding the time to create my own content for them. But I still maintained the Twitter accounts…tweeting, interacting and responding to my communities there. With RebelMouse I’m able to create a “webpage” out of not only my Twitter activity, but of my Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and RSS feeds as well.

    You can see one of my RebelMouse pages here: https://www.rebelmouse.com/doiluvu/

    Is it working? Well my goal here is not to support or drive traffic anywhere. It’s simply a collection of online content focused on a very particular subject. The podcast mentioned that Google does this. However Google searches are not nearly as media-rich as my RebelMouse pages. Also, it doesn’t give you the opportunity to build a community. RebelMouse has a feature (maybe the other services do too) where I can scan the ‘net for keywords, hashtags and users on particular networks. This goes to my “drafts” page. I get this whether I’m following the person or not. If I choose to curate their content, then an automated message goes out to them that their content was shared. I would say that 30-50% of the the time, that person adds me on Twitter, or Facebook, or what have you. I also add them. Going forward, they now have a ‘go-to’ place online where they can find more curated content on this topic. And that’s really what I’m shooting for. Sharing and supporting others that are interested in the same thing.

    In regards to corporate hierarchy, I don’t see why a company cannot adopt a hybid type solution to their corporate organization. For example, you have your top level-change makers – founders, VPs, Chiefs, maybe even some managers. Then everyone else is sort of in a bush-type structure. Certain channels are left completely open in regards to communication and even some operations. However you know who the leaders are and they are the ones that are empowered to make drastic corporate changes if need be. Make sense at all?

  • Mark W. Schaefer I have NOT listened to episode yet so please keep that in mind with this response…

    But the idea that the Internet “hates” leaders. I would push back on this a little. I think the Internet hates Totalitarian leaders… But loves Visionary and Caused-based leadership.

    They love leaders who do the work right alongside them. I think you have embraced that with the community you’ve built here… Marcus Sheridan with his community, GaryVee, Seth Godin… These are true leaders but not in old world, “Do as I say,” way that so many who took to the Internet were rebelling against.

  • Really interesting points Shona. I love that you pointed out those secondary benefits of content curation. The hybrid idea might make sense too. Thank you!

  • Yes i agree. What I meant by this is what I addressed in Return On Influence — the traditional type of power based on title, wealth or what family you married into does not show up well on the Internet. People don;t care about that stuff. You have to earn it, primarily through content.

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